Less than four weeks before the Nov. 3 election, Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry set aside long-standing grievances with Gov. Parris N. Glendening yesterday and endorsed him for a second term.
Schmoke and Curry, who have been under mounting pressure from other Democrats to support the governor, announced their endorsement at an early morning news conference at City Hall, saying it was important to their jurisdictions to have Glendening in the State House.
"You're not going to be able to agree with a candidate on everything," Schmoke said.
"But this is a matter now of comparing the record and comparing the vision. I simply believe the governor set forth a positive vision for our state, for our community."
In a remarkable reflection of the personal estrangement between the governor and the two men, Glendening was not invited to attend the announcement, and he was unaware of the endorsements until informed by reporters during a stop in Columbia.
Still, Glendening said he was happy to win support at last from Schmoke and Curry, two of the state's ranking African-American officials and the leaders of key jurisdictions in which he hopes to build a margin of victory over Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey.
"We're obviously very, very pleased and excited," Glendening said. "The polls have us ahead, but each of these individuals has the ability in their community to really help with voter turnout.
"We've been urging Democrats to come together," Glendening said. "It's clear that there are just huge philosophical differences between my opponent and me."
Along with the endorsements, Glendening touted new statistics from the U.S. Commerce Department that showed that Maryland's ranking among states in job growth jumped significantly last year. He also joined in an announcement that Discovery Communications has decided to stay in Maryland and build a $150 million headquarters in Silver Spring.
"It's been a good day," he said.
Schmoke and Curry promised to begin an aggressive get-out-the-vote effort in their jurisdictions on Glendening's behalf.
"We know how to do it," Schmoke said.
But other Democrats said privately they would wait to see how much the two do for the governor.
Sauerbrey, meanwhile, picked up an endorsement from former state Sen. American Joe Miedusiewski, a Democrat who lost to Glendening in the 1994 primary and who now lobbies for a variety of corporate clients in Annapolis.
Sauerbrey later questioned the sincerity of the endorsement by Schmoke and Curry.
"I think it's fascinating that they did it without Parris being there," Sauerbrey said. "When someone is giving me an endorsement, I'm present. It appears this was done in a way to not generate a lot of attention or excitement about the event."
Schmoke and Curry have feuded with Glendening during the second half of his term and both endorsed his Democratic primary opponent, Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann, who ended up quitting the race.
As Schmoke endorsed Rehrmann in April, he called the governor "unreliable, inconsistent and not credible" for failing to live up to what the mayor said were commitments on issues such as legalizing slot machines. Curry has sharply criticized Glendening for not sending more education funding to Prince George's County.
Yesterday, both men did nothing to paper over those disagreements but said there were larger concerns.
"It's an assessment that getting this Democratic team will make a big difference in the quality of life in our jurisdictions," Schmoke said. "I believe it's very important for us to have Democrats in office. I know the difference."
Schmoke said he had been encouraged that Glendening agreed over the weekend to a state takeover of the cost of running circuit courts across Maryland, as well as his embrace of a long-range expansion of the Metrorail system in the Washington suburbs.
In behind-the-scenes discussions about a possible endorsement, the mayor had pushed for such a commitment on the courts, a move that would cost the state about $73 million a year if approved by the legislature.
Unlike 1994, when similar discussions were kept private, Schmoke pressed this time for a public commitment.
Curry, who had held back his endorsement in hopes of winning a pledge from Glendening for more money to build schools in Prince George's, said he was offering his support despite having received no such promise.
"There is no covenant, understanding or agreement with respect to schools by the governor or me," Curry said.
But he said it would have been reckless to hold out any longer.
"We are making the endorsement nonetheless," Curry said. "The clock is ticking."
Glendening is locked in what polls show to be an extremely tight race with Sauerbrey, a former member of the House of Delegates who came within 6,000 votes of beating him four years ago.